SPOILER ALERT: This interview contains major storyline and character spoilers for last night's "Outlaw" episode of "Justified."
It's true … Arlo Givens, one of Harlan County's most notorious rascals, yet also one of its most oddly endearing residents, is dead. After taking a pair of scissors to the chest in a fight at the prison -- which is tied to this season's ongoing "Who is Drew Thompson?" storyline -- Arlo lived long enough to leave son Raylan with another unforgettable father-son moment: His last words to his son were, "Kiss my ass."
And with that, Arlo was out of the picture, with Raylan getting a phone call at work that his dad had died, and boss Art having to force Raylan to take a couple of days off to deal with his daddy issue.
Watch a promo clip from the "Outlaw" episode:
The presence of Arlo, and certainly the actor who played him, Raymond J. Barry, will be missed on "Justified." Yahoo! TV talked to the 73-year-old actor (and playwright, painter, sculptor, and father of four, including a 4-year-old) about Arlo's departure from Harlan, about how he has yet to see an episode of FX's fine drama, and about the many, many things he has planned for the future.
Arlo's death was so brutal. What was it like filming that?
The scene itself is action packed and brutal and very dramatic. It's certainly a well done closure, let's put it that way. It's a long fight scene during which time you're not sure who's going to win. I'm thinking now of "Shane," the movie from the '50s with Alan Ladd. They had this long barroom fight in the middle of this small Western town, and I'll never forget the battle of it and the choreography of it. It's just one of those paradigm fight scenes that left an indelible impression upon my mind. Hopefully, this one will be the same.
There's no closure for Arlo and Raylan, really, except maybe that Arlo on his deathbed treated Raylan the exact same way he'd treated him his whole life. Were you hoping for anything different, some other type of closure?
I was hoping for that. I thought, wouldn't it be unusual and unexpected if, one day, Arlo would say to his son, "I love you?" It's so different from the way he speaks. You would never expect him to go into that terrain with his boy. Yet, it's something that may happen between the father and son regardless of their lack of education, their background, and the conditioning they've experienced in their environment. I thought that would be a wonderful stroke. Nonetheless, having said that, it wasn't in the offing. (Laughs)
We think the fans are going to be heartbroken. Arlo has certainly had his bad boy moments, but he's always so fun to watch.
Sometimes I've been on location … one time I was up in the state of Washington shooting a movie, and a woman came over to me and said to me, "Are you my favorite father?" (Laughs) Referring to Arlo. I said, "Yes, I'm your favorite father." She couldn't believe I was sitting in a restaurant there in the state of Washington. Arlo is a cantankerous guy. He's a causal character. He makes things happen, in spite of the guy's age. You would consider him an older man, but he certainly has impact upon everyone who has contact with him. He's not passive, let's put it that way.
How fun has he been to play? He has had a lot of ornery moments, and those look like they're particularly fun to do.
I have a ball. I'm not from that environment, although I ran a little wild when I was a kid. There were a lot of woods around where I lived. Bare feet and fishing with a bamboo pole … I had a rural environment in which to play up until the age of about 14, when the neighborhood was built up with tract homes and the woods were torn down. My interests became more socialized and more urbanized by the time I was in high school. I went to a rather highbrow university [Brown], so by the time I was a young man, I was completely civilized. Playing a character who is so different from me was fun. It was like playing a game of basketball. I'm very hardworking, I'd show up very prepared and just go for it without thinking of it. It was really a lot of fun. I just thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it. I love the character, and I love the people, and I love the writing. It's been great.
How did you find out they planned to kill Arlo? Were you told before the season began?
Yeah, they told me I was going to be killed. It's very dramatic, and I'm sure I'll get a lot of feedback from my colleagues at the YMCA. They always keep me informed about how scenes came across the night before. I have a cadre with whom I have short bursts of conversation while I'm doing a workout at the Y.
They keep you on your toes with their reviews?
Oh, yeah. I'm very proud of the show. The reviews have been great, and people's response has been excellent. It's been a very good run, I must say. One of the highlights. You know, when you do 50 years of work there are high points, one of which would be "Born on the Fourth of July." Another one would be "Dead Man Walking," the Tim Robbins film. Various films, "Interview with the Assassin," in which I played the alleged second gunman who assassinated President Kennedy. Various runs in New York with the Open Theater and the Living Theater, my first Broadway show, "The Leaf People," produced by Joe Papp. ["Justified"] is one of the highlights, I would say. "Justified" has been great.
It's a fantastic show.
Is it really? You know, I've never watched an episode.
Is that right?
I love the response I hear from people, and I hear something every day.
Do you normally not watch the things that you're in?
Well, I have a bunch of kids, and I have to get up at 5:30 in the morning to get them all to school, and I go to sleep about 10 o'clock at night. The idea of watching a show for an hour just never took shape. I was always exhausted by that time, and what I'll do is I'll rent or I'll buy the whole season of each season that has passed, and I'll see them. I have no prejudice against watching it. It'll be a marathon, all at once.
You're in for a treat then. It really is far and away one of the best shows on TV.
That's what I gather. It's nice to be part of that.
You're a huge part of it. That's why it's so sad that Arlo is gone. It's hard to imagine the show without him. It's hard to imagine what Raylan will be like without him, because he obviously so informs who Raylan is.
Yes. It's not atypical to the show to kill off a fulcrum member of the cast. Margo Martindale was killed, and she was wonderful in the show. Linda Gehringer was my wife, Helen, and they killed her off. Both of these passings were unexpected, and came at a time when I think people, audiences, were very much hooked into the characters. I believe it's a technique that they used to keep people off-guard and a little bit off balance, and not being able to predict exactly what's going to happen in the future.
Do you enjoy working in TV? Most of your roles, the ones you mentioned, "Born on the Fourth of July," "Dead Man Walking," "Falling Down," and of course, "Walk Hard," the many roles that you're known for, are movie roles. Have you enjoyed this regular role on TV and getting to create that character over a period of time?
I love it. I love the stability of working on one gig for a long period of time, for four years. As a matter of fact, I've given some thought to that. I think I've gotten a little comfortable, and I've always been living in a kind of danger of being out of work and having a family to support, and all of the trials and tribulations that actors go through. In this period of time, that's not been the case. I've had a steady income, a steady job, I know the people. Everyone is familiar with me, and also I with them. Now, I have to get tough again. (Laughs)
What do you think is next for you? You've had such a wide variety of professional experiences, from Broadway and the movies and TV, writing plays, and your incredible paintings and sculptures. We'd bet you could write a memoir that would be a great read.
I recently published online an essay about my first attempts at Shakespeare at the McCarter Theater when I was 21 years old, a self effacing article that's humorous, dealing with my ineptitude, primarily. Somebody else mentioned that … a friend of mine read it and he said, "You ought to write a book about your career." He really got a big kick out of it. The essay is very funny. I have tinkered with the notion of doing something like that, because I think my experience has been varied from off off Broadway with Joseph Chaikin's company, the Open Theater, traveling all over Europe, doing 200 performances a year with them in countries like Algeria, Israel, France. We were in Paris every year for a month at the Sorbonne performing our plays.
It was a wonderful experience, performing at the Roundhouse Theater in London every year, going up to Canada, working in Toronto or Montreal, Vancouver, working in New York. It was just an amazing experience that helped me grow and gave me a consciousness. We worked in prisons.
Acting with the inmates?
Yeah. I did workshops in Sing Sing and Attica, for 10 years when I was in New York. It was heavyweight; it was really beautiful. I had a truck that I kept in White Plains, and the inmates only served a year or half a year in jail. They'd come out, and I had funding and I could pay them a $125 a week, and we'd perform our plays off the back of a truck that unfolded into a stage. It was amazing, you know? It was really just an amazing experience; [at the same time] I was doing "Flubber," a movie that had all the accoutrements of money spent, and high powered producing, and movie stars and all of that business. It was so incongruous to what my original background was.
Well, what is next for you?
I am working on, now, this is going to sound like I'm tooting my own horn, but I'm working on a painting that I've been working on for probably, off and on, for years. As we're speaking, I'm sitting in my studio looking at that painting. It's about to be finished. Also, I have my computer opened. I'm writing a new play that is based upon the short story which I recently published, which is about an agoraphobic woman who's addicted to pills who has an immigrant maid whom she fires because she doesn't like somebody eavesdropping on her private life, which is a pill popping existence where she lies on her couch and watches television all day. I'm thinking about playing the woman. I'll get a fat stomach, I'll wear a dress. I don't know why I have this impulse to do this, but it's lingering in my mind, and knowing myself, I may very well do it. The reason is I'm bored with playing men. I want to play a big, heavy woman who's addicted to Oxycontin, who fires her maid, who is well educated, has a law degree but doesn't work. I'm thinking that maybe she could ultimately rehire the maid and gain her citizenship through her law degree.
That's where my mind is right now. I have no definite job lined up, and God knows when that will happen, either sooner or later. But I'll get a phone call from my manager, and he'll say, "You've got a gig and here's what it is." You know what? I prefer that existence to doing the same job for 40 years. I'm built in a transient fashion emotionally. There's a part of me that likes very much to move on, do the job well, and then let's see what's next. It's like an adventure. It can be precarious, but I think I'm fine.
Did you ever talk about writing with Elmore Leonard or the "Justified" writers while you were working on the show?
No. I never revealed to any of the house writers that I do write, and I've published an anthology of plays, because I just felt that was not what I was being hired for. I think it's tricky to tell a writer that you're a writer. I didn't want them feeling I was judging their writing or anything of that nature. When I go on a set I generally don't tell people I paint or write or any of that business.
Your co workers on "Justified" didn't know what an amazing painter you are?
They do not, and thank you for saying that. I began painting when I was 24. I was going through a very personal, difficult time, trying to establish myself as an actor and fearing the commitment, simultaneously, and I decided to paint to assuage some of the anxiety I was experiencing in my young life. During that period of time, I became educated about painting. I knew I had a talent for it. My mother was a painter, and her father was a sculptor. My uncle is a painter, and my sister is a painter. It seems to run in the family. I always had a talent for drawing and painting and so on. I just rented a storefront and lived in it, on East 10th Street in New York. At 223 East 10th, between 1st and 2nd Avenue, I had this little storefront, and in that storefront, I embarked on a journey of painting and sculpting and drawing. I had three shows during that period. I did not like the process of selling my work, but I did become connected emotionally with the process of painting and vowed never to stop. Here I am at age 73, I'm sitting in another studio, and there are seven or eight paintings surrounding me. They're 7 feet high and about maybe 3 1/2 feet wide. The color in this room is luminescent, and I love it. I come here every day. I prepare for roles in here. I rehearse my plays here. I spend most of my time by myself here, and then I go home to a house full of kids, and it works out just fine.
That sounds like the best of both worlds. Do any of your children have an interest in acting or painting?
My 4 year old. Yeah, and my 21 year old, who's at Amherst College on a basketball scholarship. He took an acting class at Andover, where he did a postgraduate year, and apparently the teacher gave him an A and raved about his talent. But when I confront him about it, he says, "No, I don't want to do that." He's too macho.
My wife and I have been married for 23 years and together for about 26. We've got three kids among ourselves, and I have one child from my first marriage, so I have four children. The kids are pretty healthy. They're smart, and they're good athletes. I teach them various sports. My 40 year old daughter was the captain of the rowing team at Loyola Marymount University. Now she's an equine therapist … she helps bipolar kids and drug-addicted kids with horses.
Is your wife an actress?
My wife was an actress and a really fine actress. Her name is Robyn Mundell. But she gave acting up to become a writer. She's got a book, a science-fiction novel that is in the process of being published as we speak. She's got a lot going for herself. It's a wonderful thing. She has an office where she goes and she does her work. Then I have my place where I go, and we meet at night. We don't even talk about what we're doing. It works out very well.
So you've got multiple careers between you, four children, and you're now looking for your next acting gig.
Oh yeah, I've been doing it for 30 years. I'm not going to stop now, babe.
Watch a preview of next week's episode:
"Justified" airs Tuesdays at 10 PM on FX.
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